Separating facts from "alternative facts" in the Trump era

The Trump administration's view on truth is tenuous at best

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 4, 2017 12:30PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Now that the Trump administration has put "alternative facts" into our political lexicon, it's worth taking a look at a quartet of prime examples of the so-called "facts" promoted by the new politicians that are, really, just plain old lies.

Climate change is scientific fact.

One of Trump's first actions as president was to take down the White House's website on climate change, and in the subsequent weeks he has doubled down on his attempts to scrub the truth about man-made global warming from all vestiges of policymaking. This was to be expected, since Trump has in the past claimed that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese and that "nobody really knows" if it's happening.

"I’m still open-minded. Nobody really knows," Trump said in December. "Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast. I do know this: Other countries are eating our lunch."

Trump's position here is objectively wrong, as 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the earth is warming and human activities are incredibly likely to be the main culprit.

Trump's ban is a Muslim ban (he's even said as much).

After Trump's executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries was denounced as bigoted, the Trump administration tried to insist that it was not a Muslim ban. Their own words proved it was: Even if Rudy Giuliani didn't admit to "Fox & Friends" that Trump called him up asking how he could make a Muslim ban legal, Trump promoted this very policy during his 2016 presidential campaign as a ban on Muslim immigration. Per a campaign speech in December 2015: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on."

Even his own press secretary Sean Spicer referred to the Muslim ban as such — before, of course, he saw that it was inexpedient to do so.

The Holocaust was about killing Jews.

Despite what Trump has implied, no one is arguing that Jews were the only people killed by the Nazis. That said, it's equally undeniable that the Holocaust was about exterminating the Jews, so when the White House issued a statement that never mentioned the fact that this was a uniquely Jewish ordeal, they engaged in what historian Deborah Lipstadt referred to as "softcore Holocaust denial." As she writes in The Atlantic:

There were indeed millions of innocent people whom the Nazis killed in many horrific ways, some in the course of the war and some because the Germans perceived them — however deluded their perception — to pose a threat to their rule. They suffered terribly. But that was not the Holocaust. The Holocaust was something entirely different. It was an organized program with the goal of wiping out a specific people.

Those specific people happened to be Jewish. This is why it's so troubling that, when confronted about it, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said, "“I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust including, obviously, all of the Jewish people affected and miserable genocide that occurs — it’s something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad. If we could wipe it off of the history books, we would. But we can’t."

Trump lost the popular vote.

It is downright ominous that Trump has declared an investigation into what he claims was voter fraud by millions of illegal immigrants. He has said this a number of times, most notably on Twitter only a few weeks after the election.

There is not a scintilla of evidence that this happened, and even as the Trump administration likes to claim that progressives who protest their actions are being sore losers, it's hard to imagine a more flagrant sign of bad sportsmanship than denying mathematical reality because it bruises your ego.

Trump may be our president, but he won that office even though more people voted for his chief opponent than himself. He needs to stop crying and deal with it.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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2016 Elections Climate Change Donald Trump Holocaust Muslim Ban